I Have A Hard Time Calling A Two-Year-Old A ‘Preschooler’

shutterstock_73164925I have one of those Babycenter accounts. It started with my last pregnancy, when I was obsessively tracking every day of my little embryo’s development. When I became pregnant again, I logged back into my account to update my new pregnancy. I occasionally like to peak on there to see what fruit my developing child most closely resembles.

I logged on today and was greeted with the usual updates. The site divides my information into two categories, “Your Pregnancy, 17 weeks,” and “Your Child, 26 months old.”  I clicked on the link for my 26-month-old, and to my surprise he was described as a preschooler:  ”Your 2-Year-Old Now: Preschoolers bite when they’re mad or feel threatened, usually because they’re having trouble communicating their feelings. Actions speak louder than words, so … chomp!” Huh? When did two-year-olds become preschoolers? This is really stressing me out.

I never attended preschool, but when I was a child preschool was the place kids went the year before they went to kindergarten – you know, around age four. Now, it seems like every new mom is thinking about preschool waiting lists before their child can crawl. Maybe it’s just new moms in Brooklyn – this is the only reference point I have.

When my son was around one, I was on a play date with some moms in the neighborhood. One had an 11month old and one had a 16 month old. They were both discussing the essays they were completing to get their children on the waiting list for the “most competitive preschool in the neighborhood.” They both wanted their children to be attending preschool by the time they were two. I was confused. Mostly by the words “competitive” and “preschool” being strung together – but also by the age at which they thought sending their child to “school” was necessary.

“You want to send your two-year old somewhere to interact with other children? That’s not preschool. That’s daycare.” I said.

“No, it’s preschool. They also have a daycare, but we’re applying for preschool,” one of the moms said. I wondered what the difference could possibly be, but decided to keep my mouth shut.

I guess I think of “school” as a place with a lot of instruction and guidance, and “daycare” as a place where kids can just exist as kids. Play, touch things, pee in a diaper, nap. Maybe there really is no difference between the two – maybe these institutions just got hip to the fact that parents felt more accomplished sending their toddlers to “preschool” instead of “daycare,” and decided to rename it. I don’t know. All I know is, don’t call my two-year-old a preschooler. I don’t have time to write an essay trying to get him into the most “competitive” place to eat peanut butter and crackers in the neighborhood – nor can I afford it.

(photo: blessings/ Shutterstock.com)


Be Sociable, Share!
You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
Be Sociable, Share!
  • Blooming_Babies

    While I would never “compete” for a preschool a lot brain development happens before the age of three so a few hours a week with an educator seems like a good idea to me. My two year old will go to the church preschool next year two days a week, six hours total. My older daughter did and loved it, the added development and fun is well worth it.

  • SammyW

    2 years should not be in preschool! They should be playing!

  • Katia

    You really don’t know the difference between preschool and daycare? You could try googling that prior to publishing a parenting article. All you know is you can’t afford it? Ok between you and braggy rich mama mommyish should really leave the money talk for annoying your friends. It taints your articles.
    Daycare is caring for the child the whole day. Preschool gives the child a school experience. Community , cooperation, training for when your kid will be expected to sit nicely for teachers. Introduction to a second language is an option. No diapers at preschool. My son started right after turning 3. He was with other older 3 year olds and caused Some older boys to run around and required lots of my energy for the separation anxiety and reminders not to run, fight etc. now hes almost 5 and fine at preschool. my daughter started before turning 3 (believe it or not, she was a proper 2 year old preschooler) and has no problems at all..a really enjoys the crafts songs and friendship.

    • MamaKatia

      The preschool we use is 5-7.5 hours/week. So they are still playing lots.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

      “Money talk?” I mentioned that I couldn’t afford it once. Apparently I touched a nerve.

    • Katia

      it sounds low classy. Whether you’re bragging about a tv or Mercedes or saying something is useless and you can’t afford it. I cant tell if you’re implying that I’m jealous of your wealth or am rich and hate the poor, but your writing did touch a nerve because it seemed like you didnt know much about your subject. Plus it seemed u weren’t even curious ! If you can’t afford it I guess you are not the target market. My kids go to a nice (waitlist) preschool and it is a great feeling that they are with kids with choosy parents. and that they’re learning French

    • LiteBrite

      Actually many daycares do the same thing your definition of “preschools” do, particularly the ones that are NAEYC accredited. Our last daycare was definitely on a par with any preschool, although they didn’t bill themselves as such. Our son was taught all the things you mention: community, cooperation, training for kindergarten. Oh, he even picked up a little Spanish while he was there.

      Sometimes there isn’t that big of a difference.

  • Diana

    In my country kids start school usually just after their 4th birthday. Pre school is 1-4. I think this is unhealthy. I prefer the European model of starting ” Real” school at 7. I don’t like the idea of kids being institutionalized as soon as they can walk.

  • Justme

    I definitely understand the turn-off of the “competitive” parenting on this particular subject.

    I teach middle school. So does my husband. My MIL is a recently retired elementary school teacher. My husband’s aunt is a special needs teacher and his deceased father was a high school basketball coach. My mother taught preschool and high school religious education. My father was a high school auto body repair teacher. My grandfather taught on the university level.

    I understand the importance of education.

    BUT….my daughter will not be entered into any formal preschool until 3.5 or even age four. She currently goes to a sitter where she interacts on a daily basis with three boys her age. Her sitter plays games, encourages healthy relationships and uses teachable moments to learn letters, numbers, colors and the like. I am not worried about her educational experience at this point in time. Right now she needs to play, feel secure, learn the intricate rules of friendships and build her creativity. Too much pressure to perform too early in life is heading down a road towards burnout, disappointment and disaster.

  • Lori B.

    I too was thrown off by the babycenter emails that started referring to my 2 year old as a “preschooler.” I was like, wait, she just started walking 8 months ago, she’s still a toddler! Onthe subject of preschool vs. day care: my daughter went to an in-home day care the incorporated play and learning very seamlessly. I was told that in the September after she turned two they would give her a notebook and start teaching her some basic writing skills, like drawing straight lines and circles. While she attended that “day care” she learned the alphabet song and so many other little things, I can’t even remember at this point. Unfortunately, her day care closed that August so I never got to see what would happen when she got her “notebook.” Being a first time parent, I just assumed most in-home licensed day cares were like this. This was not true. While I really love her current day care provider, who is much less expensive then her previous one, there is quite a bit less learning going on there. My daughter started to forget the alphabet and how to count to ten. I feel like she lost a bit of an educational opportunity, but really, it was just bragging rights that I lost. This year, at about 3 1/2 years old, she started “pre-school”, and it all came back and then some. I don’t think pre-school is necessary before age 4, to be honest, especially if it is going to stress out your child. You have to weigh your options and choose your battles.
    Regarding the one mention of money, money has everything to do with this conversation because it often determines who can afford to go to pre-school in any form, let alone “competitive” preschools. Money was a huge factor in deciding if my daughter could go to preschool this year. My husband and I discussed it thoroughly, as we would any other major purchase or monthly bill. Ultimately we decided the cost was worth it for our daughter because she showed interest in learning and we both work full-time so we could not dedicated adequate time at home to keep her engaged. I don’t think this solution is right for everyone. However, if someone cannot afford it, there are few options, especially if you expect your child to pick up a foreign language.

    • Crowther Amanda-Beth

      She is 2 she is going thru infintile amnesia so was 70% chance she would have forgotten such anyways its natural basically cause past 2 you really don’t want to remember the womb delivery that kind of stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003474121612 Charlotte James

    Sad that people use their kids as a status symbol. You may think that everyone thinks you have it together, but in reality, most of us think you are horrible parents. We wonder why you had kids and didn’t just buy a Ferrari instead. They usually turn out to be bullies, or super needy. Enjoy your kids. Let them be kids.

  • http://twitter.com/DecaturFlora Flora

    Preschool is 4 years old. Anything before 4 is a toddler. I’m a child development specialist, so you can quote me on that ;)

    But yes, I think it’s pretty specific to rich people who will spend $18k a year on said “preschools” for their toddlers.

  • Crowther Amanda-Beth

    A 2 yr old is not preschooler and i dont give flying beep sbat school sytem says 1and 2 yr olds are toddlers. And 3-5 yr olds are preschoolers a,d that’s that. I don’t get why some parents put 2 yr old toddler in preschool. Its unecary and they will be their 2-3 yrs depending on their bday

  • Crowther Amanda-Beth

    A 2 yr old is still toddler even they really aren’t in school its day care no matter what they say. Developmentally speaking 2 yr old is toddler yes an older toddler but toddeer all the sae preschoolers devlopmmentally speaking are 3-5 yrs old kindergartners arr 5-7( and yes preschooler and kindergartners got weird names for age groups). 2 yr old is toddler and thats all their is to that.